High Expectations Up Front

With a Pro Bowler and two alternates in the starting lineup, the defensive line has the potential to be special. While the numbers from the front four were good last season, there's room for improvement.

Last season Wale Ogunleye became the first Bears defensive end to reach double digits in sacks since Richard Dent in 1993, and tackle Tommie Harris earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Defensive end Alex Brown received a vote for NFL defensive player of the year, and defensive tackle Ian Scott was a steady presence at the nose.

The Bears' defensive line didn't terrorize opposing quarterbacks, but it usually applied solid pressure and was stout against the run. By using a four-man rotation inside, including Tank Johnson and Alfonso Boone, and by utilizing athletic Israel Idonije at end, the Bears were able to have fresh troops on the field most of the time and maintain a high level of performance and intensity. Since Boone is the only defensive linemen on the roster older than 28, the group is expected to be even better this season.

"You can overcome adversity by playing hard," Bears defensive line coach Don Johnson said. "(But) we need to be more fundamentally technically sound with some of the things that we do in terms of the little details -- taking the proper step and using some of the different things that we do to take advantage of offensive linemen."

Harris made the Pro Bowl after registering just three sacks last season, as opponents saw more than pass-rush skills from the 23-year-old.

"He's a disruptive player," Johnson said. "Everybody measures sacks, but we had 24 interceptions, and some of that was due to pressure and some of that was due to coverage. We had a lot of hurries and drew a lot of holding penalties, and (Harris) contributes to that by getting up the field and disrupting the offense."

Ogunleye (10) and Brown (6) combined for 16 sacks last season, but both are also better than advertised as run defenders. Both were Pro Bowl alternates.

"Somebody recognized that they were doing something right," Johnson said. "Statistically, you always want to get the sack numbers up on your edge rushers. They also played run defense well."

After three years of underachieving and disappointing as a defensive end, former first-round draft choice Michael Haynes will move inside and try to make an impact at tackle.

But the Bears are deep inside, already sporting a four-man rotation, the team added Dusty Dvoracek in the third round of the draft. So Haynes is fighting an uphill battle.

"Right now Michael has been plugged in as a three-technique (tackle), and based on his ability, athleticism and strength, that could be an excellent move for him," Johnson said. "We're going to have great competition. I don't know what our depth is going to look like in terms of the final numbers, but we've got a bunch of guys who are competing for jobs."


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